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Senate Democratic leaders say they will bring a bill to the floor that would result in the military's "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy on homosexuals being overturned, although a leading Republican is pledging to mount a filibuster.
The bill, the annual Department of Defense authorization bill, typically is not very controversial and usually has broad bipartisan support. But Democrats amended this year's version so that the military's policy prohibiting open homosexual service would be overturned if the bill passes and a reversal is OK'd by President Obama, Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Mike Mullen. All three support a repeal.
Aides to Majority Leader Harry Reid, D.-Nevada, told several media outlets that a vote will take place after the Senate completes debate on a small businesses bill. The Senate defense bill is controversial not only because it would reverse the military's policy but also because it contains an amendment that would eliminate a longstanding restriction on elective, privately funded abortions in military health care facilities.
The House already has passed its version of the bill, although it didn't have the abortion language. If the Senate passes the defense bill, it would go to a House-Senate conference, which would need to reconcile the differences between the two versions. Each chamber then would need to pass the bill again.
Sen. John McCain, R.-Arizona, and other supporters of the current military policy on homosexuals say Congress should not tackle the issue until an ongoing survey of military personnel is completed in December.
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